President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday called off his five-day casual leave as a mark of respect for the victims of the insurgents’ attacks across the battlefields in the region. He is also scheduled to visit the troops at the theatre of war shortly.
Presidency sources said the cancellation of the trips would also enable the president to continue his on-going meetings and consultations with relevant security and community intelligence personnel aimed at addressing the worsening security challenges.
Buhari is expected to declare open today, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Annual Conference, which was moved from Benin City to Maiduguri, Borno State, at the Government House Conference Hall and also use the opportunity to visit troops fighting Boko Haram.
The presidential visit comes after months of deadly raids by the IS-affiliated jihadists on military bases, which have left scores of troops dead or missing in the volatile North-east.
In a posting on Twitter, a presidential spokesman, Mr Bashir Ahmad, said Buhari would attend the army conference in Maiduguri as well as address troops to boost their morale.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has cancelled his planned official visit to Benin, Edo State tomorrow, to visit Maiduguri, Borno State on Wednesday,” he wrote.
The president had severally noted that fighting terrorism had taken a global dimension, which necessitated international collaboration among states facing similar security challenges.
He had reassured Nigerians of his continued commitment to their security and of his efforts to sustain the momentum in the previous significant successes recorded against the terrorists, advising Nigerians against making a political capital out of the national tragedy.
Army yet to get $1 billion approved to fight insurgency
The army says it has not gotten the $1 billion approved to fight the insurgency and other security challenges. The cash was approved in 2017 for President Muhammadu Buhari by the National Economic Council (NEC) to be withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to strengthen the fight against the insurgency.
Fielding questions from newsman over the weekend army spokesman Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman said the money is still being processed.
He said: “People should understand also that this is a democratic system in which procurement and of course funding of defence-related issues takes such a long time.
“Take for instance the issue of the $1 billion approved recently by Mr President, up till now, the process is ongoing. The ministry of defence is still pursuing the matter to the point that when it is done, the armed forces will definitely get more equipment, more arms and ammunition.”
In April, Garba Shehu, the presidential spokesman, said the President’s approval was not final because a draft bill would have to be sent to the National Assembly for consideration.
Brig.-Gen. Usman, however, said that at the moment, what the armed forces have and what have been procured over the last two to three years is being used judiciously.
The strings of Boko Haram attacks on military formations in the northeast have been blamed on the dearth of sufficient equipment.
But, the army spokesman said: “To the best of our abilities, all the necessary equipment, ammunition and arms are being given.”
He expressed sadness over the recent killings of troops and said legal action would be taken on those fabricating figures around the casualties.
His words: “So sad and unfortunate that our troops came under enemy attack on the 18th of last month and we suffered causality as we mentioned. Sadly, we lost 23 gallant officers and men and of course, some of them sustained injuries.
“In respect of the effort, we are trying as much as possible to make sure that first and foremost we give timely and accurate information on all our activities and operations bearing national security concern.
“And then secondly, we have gone a north further to identify where those fake news and fabricated stories are coming from, and definitely our legal department is taking the step to make sure that all those involved would be taken to court.”
He described the visits of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai and the hierarchy of the army to military formations as part of efforts to reverse the trend.
Boko Haram: FG goes Hi-Tech in fights against insurgency
The Federal government has deployed drones in the fight against insurgency in the Northeast.
The deployment followed the recent killing of some soldiers fighting insurgency in the region who were ambushed by the terrorist group, Boko Haram.
The Nigerian delegation made the revelation in its Country report presented to the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja on Friday.
The report presented by Mr Sani Rano, also contained losses to the country from incessant farmers/herders clashes.
The deployment of the drones followed an attack on the Nigerian forces in Borno by the insurgent group, an attack which led to the killing of no fewer than 44 soldiers, the report stated.
The delegation, in their report, informed the parliament that the insurgent group killed 44 soldiers in three military bases in Borno state: Metele, Gajiram and Mainok.
The report said that the country in reaction to the attack had deployed the drones to constantly survey the area, even as it had set up a multi-national joint task force to curb the menace.
“It is worth mentioning that Nigeria has constituted the Multi-National Joint Taskforce (MNTF) made up of Chad, Benin, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria, in fighting Boko Haram.
“It is a multinational formation comprising of equipped units, mostly the military aimed at containing the ravages of terrorism and armed insurgency.
“Presently, drones are patrolling Nigeria’s borders with Chad, Niger and Cameroon as instruments for intelligence collection.
“The Nigerian government is working closely with the Cameroonian government with the aim of negotiating efforts in enabling more Cameroon Boko Haram members to surrender,” the report said.
The report, however, stated that before the recent attacks on military bases, the Nigerian troops had made good progress in tackling insurgency and reopening towns previously seized by Boko Haram.
It said that Nigeria had gone into partnerships with other countries including the U.S. and UK, France, Germany, ECOWAS, AU and the UN which had led to the purchase of weapons including 12 Super Tucano Aircraft.
On the herders/farmers clashes, Rano stated that no fewer than 1,300 persons were killed in Nigeria.
The number according to the report was six times more than the number of persons that had been killed by Boko Haram as at the time of the report.
He said that apart from the loss of lives, Nigeria as a country was also losing billions of Naira on the importation of food which would have been produced locally if there were no crisis.
“An independent report from the international crisis group cited 1,300 deaths in the region, due to the conflicts between herders and farmers.
“The ongoing conflict between farmers and cattle herders is costing Nigeria at least $16 billion in potential revenues annually,” he said.
Rano explained that clashes were due to accusations made by the farmers against herdsmen of failing to control their cattle and allowing them to damage their crops.
He said the herdsmen also accused the farmers of stealing and slaughtering their cattle, adding that the clashes that ensued led to the killing of many, including innocent bystanders.
The report noted that the Nigerian government had, however, taken steps to address the crisis and the senseless killings.
The Nigerian Army, as well as the Police, were said to have deployed intelligent and surveillance to avert any re-occurrence especially with the coming of the dry seasons when the herders would need to search for fresh pasture.
Buhari, other leaders re-strategize against Boko Haram
President Muhammadu Buhari was in N’djamena, capital of the Republic of Chad yesterday to rally his colleagues for the task at a one-day consultation with Heads of State and Governments of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC).
The meeting was called to address the recent upsurge in terrorist activities in the region. Set for the new assault against insurgents, particularly Boko Haram, are Chad, Niger Republic, and the Republic of Cameroon.
”Times as these call for quick interventions and measures,” President Buhari stated, adding:
”As you are aware and have witnessed in recent times, there are new developments of security concern in our sub-region. The region in the recent past has witnessed increasing attacks, particularly on military formations by elements of the Boko Haram terrorists as well as the renewed kidnapping of people. These activities are aimed at weakening our collective resolve to eradicate them from the region.
”We must not cave in. The group’s renewed strategy of increasingly mining the general area as well as its recent deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for surveillance activities have proved to be critical factors in the resurgence of attacks in the region.”
Commending what he called the “untiring efforts” of the leadership of the LCBC, and officers and men of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), President Buhari noted that the efforts of those who strive to bring peace and stability to the region would never be forgotten.
”We are committed to ensuring that the ideals of restoring peace, stability and viability of the Lake Chad Region to its glorious state, for which some of you have paid the ultimate price are attained,” he said.
President Buhari, in a statement by his spokesperson, Femi Adesina, said: “We must not relent and allow the enemies of the region to succeed in their quest to destabilize the area. We must reinvigorate our collective will and commitment towards eradicating terrorism from our region.
”We must remain focused and true to ensuring sustainable development. To this end, I have requested that bilateral and multilateral platforms of engagements by member countries affected by the conflict be revamped to ensure collective actions towards stamping out the remnants of the terrorists from the region.
”There is no gainsaying that also fueling the crisis are the twin menaces of poverty and the continued shrinkage of the Lake Chad, which have rendered the people of the region vulnerable to terrorist activities. Attention is drawn to the Lake and its resources, which have always been the source of livelihood for the millions of people that live within and around the basin.”
He urged the Presidents and Heads of Governments to make concerted efforts to ensure the actualisation of efforts to recharge the Lake, through Inter-Basin Water Transfer, from the Congo Basin.
Buhari stressed that if meticulously pursued, the project “has the capacity to unlock the economic potentials and provide solutions to the myriad of interrelated challenges confronting the region.”
As chairman of the Summit of Heads of State and Governments of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, Buhari assured of his commitment to providing the required leadership and direction for the actualisation of peace and security in the area.
He reiterated an earlier promise he made to troops fighting terrorism: “We are committed to ensuring you have the requisite and enabling equipment to optimally function. Your welfare is and would continue to remain our priority. Together, we shall restore the Lake Chad Region to its glorious days.”
At the meeting were President Idris Deby Itno (Chad), President Mahamadou Issoufou (Niger Republic) and Prime Minister of Cameroon Philemon Yang, who represented President Paul Biya.
In a joint communique, the Heads of State and Governments resolved to change the modus operandi, collaborate more, and renew assault on all forms of terrorism and criminal acts, till wholesome peace was restored to the region.
Boko Haram: CSOs reveal political facts on the recent military killings
The Coalition of CSOs on Human Rights and Good Governance has released a preliminary report on the recent attacks by Boko Haram on military posts in Borno State.
The coalition, however, faulted the use of manipulated videos and still images to depict the attack on the troops by the insurgents.
According to a report released by the human rights groups on Wednesday, some political players used the attack as part of their campaign for the 2019 general elections, which poses the risk of validating the crimes Boko Haram sect.
Maxwell Gowon, Executive Director of the coalition, said the materials released online were mostly captured from Kannywood movie scene.
Gowon, therefore, called on the Nigerian government to carry out a comprehensive review of the activities of correspondents of foreign media platforms to ascertain the extent to which they are working with terrorists and some local actors to discredit the Nigerian military and its efforts.
The report reads in full:
The Nigerian Army confirmed that Boko Haram insurgents on November 18, 2018 attacked its 157 Battalion in Metele village in Guzamala Local Government Area of Borno State. The casualty figure from the attack remains in contention as Boko Haram propaganda has been unwittingly shared and promoted by websites and members of the public, causing distortion in the reckoning of the number of the dead and wounded.
There were also attacks in Gajiram and Mainok, both in Borno state.
Media reports of the attacks, with particular emphasis on the casualty figure, were monitored for comparative value. The video released by the Boko Haram and the various versions published, as well as screen grabs and still photos published and shared on social media were analysed.
The comment sections of some of the sites that reported the attacks or published the aforementioned multimedia content were reviewed (as posted at the time of compiling this report).
The main video (or collection, since some site published split versions) was shot to project Boko Haram as strong while at the same time aimed at causing distress and terror to Nigerians. However, vegetation in the clip remain green, which is not consistent with the start of the harmattan/dry season when the attack happened – the grass should have matured to the point beginning to dry up on account of almost bordering the desert.
Other unrelated footages of terror attacks were published by some platforms that possibly do not have the necessary skills for video authentication and verification. Unrelated gory pictures were similarly misappropriated in reporting the incidents.
In a few instances, stills from a Kannywood movie of an actor-soldier weeping over a fallen colleague-actor were serially shared as Nigerian soldiers mourning after the attack.
Some political players used the attack as political prop as part of their campaign for the 2019 General Elections, which poses the risk of validating the crimes Boko Haram is committing while encouraging them to commit more atrocities since they are being incentivised to see themselves as having a participatory audience.
International news networks and organizations have cashed in on the attack reiterate their long held stereotype to cast aspersion on the war against terrorism while meetings of the Service Chiefs to brief the Commander-in-Chief have been interpreted as censure of these high ranking military officials. This raised the concern of what relationship exists between these foreign media and the terrorists.
The foreign media have shifted from referring to the terrorists as Boko Haram to using the term “Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA)” a clear departure from their hesitation to acknowledge the IS/ISIS name in the Middle East.
Similar to 6 above, locals reported that those that carried out the attacks were foreigners and not Nigerians, which reinforces earlier expressed views of indigenous conflict monitoring and peacebuilding groups that had earlier argued that the initial Boko Haram has been degraded and eventually defeated by the Nigerian Army.
Well-meaning Nigerians should condemn the use of fake videos and photos that play on the psyche of Nigerians. The condemnation should extend to warning those that do this to desist from further terrorising Nigerians by helping Boko Haram to promote its act of terror.
The federal government should carry out a comprehensive review of the activities of correspondents of foreign media platforms to ascertain the extent to which they are working with terrorists and some local actors to discredit the Nigerian military and its efforts. The review should benchmark the conduct of these correspondents with the prevailing legislation and practice in their countries of origin and those of the countries where their organizations have their international headquarters.
The extant anti-terrorism legislation in the country should be activated to see the possibility of making the promoters of fake news to account for their actions.
In the light of the accounts by the local population and the transition of foreign media into adopting ISWA as opposed to Boko Haram, Nigerian authorities should review its treatment of the terrorists as Boko Haram members (that the record have shown to have been defeated) and see what international intervention can be brought in since the Islamic State is not a creation of Nigerian factors.
The Nigerian military should organize a refresher clinic on reporting terrorism for bloggers with a view to highlighting the imperatives of video and photo authentication.
The federal government should engage the social media and internet giants (Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others) on the need to accord Nigeria the same level of respect they show countries in Europe and North America by not condoning terrorist propaganda on their DP.
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